Vedomosti: Putin, Erdogan shape Syria’s future in Sochi

The Syrian crisis was the focus of talks between Russian and Turkish Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday, Vedomosti writes. The negotiations were held shortly after the Russian and US leaders adopted a joint statement in Vietnam on supporting a peaceful settlement in Syria.

Ahead of the talks, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara took into consideration Russia’s decision to convene the congress of all Syrian peoples and organizations with the participation of Bashar Assad’s government on November 17 in Sochi. Turkey handed over a list to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of other organizations of Syrian Kurds, which it does not consider to be terrorists, he said.

The future of the self-defense militias of the Democratic Union, the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces supported by the West, is of crucial importance for Turkey. Ankara believes they are linked to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the paper says.

According to a source close to the Russian Defense Ministry, this primarily concerns Turkish-US relations, but also affects Russia, which has a military police observation post in the enclave. Another difficult point in Syria for Russia and Turkey is the situation in the overpopulated Idlib region controlled by the opposition, most notably Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a Russian source close to the talks with Turkey said.

Viktor Murakhovsky, Editor of the Arsenal Otechestva (Arsenal of the Fatherland) magazine, said that Turkish forces were deployed to Idlib thanks to an accord with Russia, and the north and northwest of the enclave are considered as Turkey’s zone of responsibility, while the southeast is controlled by Russia. Once the partners establish order in Idlib, this will mean that the war in Syria is over and a peaceful settlement will begin, Murakhovsky stressed. However, Erdogan’s statement ahead of talks with Putin signals that Turkey seeks to have its forces in Syria until the peaceful settlement is finalized, he said.

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Before the transition period starts, the mission is to crush the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia) in Syria’s southeast and stabilize Idlib, and this may take some time, a source close to the Russian Defense Ministry said.